5 quintessential Filipino recipes from Erwan Heussaff to get to know our cuisine better
French-Filipino content creator Erwan Heussaff captured Filipino hearts with his unique take on discovering and appreciating the many facets of our cuisine. He started with the moniker “The Fat Kid Inside,” which has since evolved to be his digital video production and creative agency founded in 2013.
Through this agency, he together with a couple of other content producers and guest chefs, foodies, friends, and family share their love for Filipino food on the YouTube channel FEATr.
“From how-tos, recipes, cooking competitions, travel shows, features, and documentaries, we strive to unite people through essential human needs: connection and food,” its YouTube bio reads.
This years-long work has recently earned Heussaff a James Beard Award under the Social Media Account category that “recognizes excellence in a single food-related post, or compilation of up to three posts, that clearly represents the intention of the Facebook page, Twitter account, TikTok account, Instagram feed, or other social media format.”
In his acceptance speech, Heussaff said, “Anywhere you go in the world, you’ll meet Filipinos, especially in the food and beverage industry. In fact, one of our largest revenue streams of the country are Filipinos who are working overseas, yet not a lot is known about our culture or our food.”
FEATr has so far dabbled in trending recipes from all over social media while also shedding light on our important culinary heritage, from near-forgotten cooking techniques and production methods to obscure ingredients—all in the service of painting a complete picture of our diverse cooking traditions.
In this list are five quintessential recipes from Heussaff’s channel that perfectly encapsulate what it means to be a Filipino, one dish at a time.
A usual misconception about Filipino cooking is that it is meat-centric. In reality, when you go to the countryside, there is in fact a plethora of Filipino vegetable recipes, owing to the abundance of crops in highlands, fields, and forests. One such recipe is the Ilocanos’ dinengdeng, a stew of nearly every vegetable in the bahay kubo flavored with bagoong.
Mainstream Filipino food usually leaves out recipes outside Luzon. One often overlooked dish is this Tausug recipe for beef stew that makes use of burnt coconut for color, flavor, and aroma. It’s a spice-heavy heirloom recipe usually served during festivities in parts of Mindanao. It’s also one of the underrated ways through which Filipinos utilize coconuts in cooking.
Rice figures in most if not all Filipino meals as a source of carbohydrates and as a neutral-tasting canvas to highlight the complexity of flavors our cooking has. Silog or sinangag and itlog, plus your choice of protein (meats, fishes, processed meat) is perhaps the most famous example of this, aside from being a testament to our commitment to letting no food go to waste as the fried rice makes use of day-old rice.
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We may not have a robust pastry tradition (we have kakanins that more than compensate for that, though) but if there’s one bread that we can collectively call Filipino, it’s pandesal. The breakfast staple is made of a few simple ingredients, making it accessible for anyone looking for a filling sustenance that lends itself to a variety of ways of eating: warm on its own, slathered with a selection of jams, or with a dab of butter.
We are home to vast bodies of water that are in turn home to a diversity of marine creatures, some staples to our diets. In coastal areas, Filipinos have learned to eat seafood fresh with just a few ingredients and a few steps: kinilaw or ceviche. Nearly every seafood imaginable can be made into kinilaw. What sets versions apart are their sources of acidity (vinegar or fruit) and flavor (coconut milk and chili).